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Flash floods soak Fay-West region

| Saturday, Aug. 24, 2013, 12:36 a.m.
Evan R. Sanders | Daily Courier
Justin Hixson wades through waters in his yard coming from a swollen Mountz Creek in Bullskin Township. Heavy rains pelted the area Friday morning, which led to the flooding and over 2 feet of water in his family's basement. Numerous neighbors' homes and yards were also flooded.
Evan R. Sanders | Trib Total Media
A motorist travels along Orchard Avenue in Scottdale through floodwaters after a small stream swells from the rains that moved through the area on Fridaty, Aug. 23, 2013. According to residents, this has never happened in their time of living next to the stream and are concerned that damage is being made upstream by the ongoing watershed project.
Evan R. Sanders | Trib Total Media
Steven Matsey of Scottdale, a member of the Scottdale Auxiliary Police, helps direct motorists as flood waters begin to wash over Mt. Pleasant Road in Scottdale.

A Friday downpour caused residential flooding and road closures in Bullskin Township and other parts of the Fay-West region.

According to the National Weather Service, the rainfall started before sunrise and ended around noon.

In that time, Connellsville received approximately 1.34 inches, Ohiopyle received 1.27 inches and Donegal received 1.62 inches, according to Fred McMullen, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service out of Pittsburgh.

The Fayette Emergency Management Agency reported that flooding and rain-related incidents, like debris in the roadway, have affected areas like Luzerne Township and Banning Road in Perry Township, but the hardest hit and most affected by Friday's rain were McClellandtown and Bullskin Township.

“Shenandoah Road was hit really hard,” said Rick Quinn, lieutenant with the Bullskin Township Volunteer Fire Department.

Quinn said approximately a quarter of a mile of Shenandoah Road was flooded with about two feet of water. Other roads that were flooded, closed and later reopened during the day in Bullskin included Route 31, White Bridge Road, Breakiron Road, Route 119 after the Agway store and Johnson Lane.

“Our first call was about a quarter after seven,” Quinn said Friday while still on the scene of Shenandoah Road, pumping out one of the seven flooded basements in the area after the rain ended. “This seems to be the worst. The creeks are getting dammed up with logs.”

Quinn said the Department of Environmental Protection was called to the area to address the problem of the creek flooding.

One of the homes along Shenandoah Road that experienced significant flooding was that of Mary Hixson.

Hixson said her children woke her up at 8:30 a.m. because they thought someone was in the house. When Hixson looked outside and in her basement, she was shocked.

“There was water in the basement up to our waists,” Hixson said. “The yard looked like a raging river going through.”

Hixson said she and her family moved into the house eight years ago after purchasing it from their in-laws, and while there has been at least five flooding incidents this year, Friday's incident was the worst.

“Even my father-in-law was shocked,” Hixson said, adding that everyone along the roadway has been voicing their concern with the DEP about the creek (Mountz Creek) that sits behind her house, where so much was damaged.

“I don't know how to pay for it,” she said. “We don't have flood insurance. I'm not sure where to go and what to do from here.”

Hixson said she and her family will probably stay with relatives until things are straightened out.

In other parts of Fayette, Chief Bob Topper with New Haven Hose Company VFD said Connellsville had some street flooding, but nothing that required any roads to be closed.

South Connellsville Mayor Pete Casini said they had one call of a flooded basement.

Connellsville Township VFD Assistant Chief Rob Leiberger said they had two flooded basements along Springfield Pike, which is common to those two residences after heavier rains.

Scottdale and Mt. Pleasant areas

In Westmoreland County, the Scottdale and Mt. Pleasant areas were affected by the heavy rainfall.

Scottdale Auxiliary Police members were out directing motorists from flooded roadways. Borough Manager Angelo Pallone said there was some flooding on roads and in basements. Mt. Pleasant Road and Broadway were closed briefly.

“Just the rain itself was so crazy,” he said. “It was like a monsoon.”

Water rushed over the Russ Grimm Field at Southmoreland, ripping the turf on one side of the field, from the fence area nearly to the 50-yard line.

Southmoreland Assistant Superintendent Timothy Scott said, (“Friday) morning, as far as we could see, it was underwater. This whole field — everything — was underwater, a raging torrent of water that went all the way down the bleachers to all the way behind the maintenance building.”

Scott said an insurance adjuster looked at the field Friday and ProGrass, which installed the surface, will assess the damage next week. Friday's football scrimmage was moved to Jefferson-Morgan's field.

In Mt. Pleasant Township, the waters of Jacobs Creek were cascading at a level Adeline Tylka hadn't seen in nearly 30 years at her Hamel Road home.

“The last time I saw it this high was in August of 1985,” she said.

Around 10:30 a.m., an unidentified man was swept into the floodwaters from his property along Route 982 in Laurelville. He was pulled from the raging torrent by friends and family members, said township Supervisor Duane Hutter, who works with the Kecksburg Rescue and EMS unit.

Down the road, Jacobs Creek and several tributaries turned the properties of Charles Maccarelli and his neighbors into a virtual lake. At the peak of the flooding, Maccarelli was knee-deep in water in his backyard attempting to fish out flower bed borders and other outdoor items.

The rushing water carried off a decorative wishing well. “The well was sitting on a slab and the water just pushed that well from my property to my neighbor's property,” Maccarelli said.

Derek Yoder, Laurelville Mennonite Church Center's host of guest services, was inspecting damage to a concrete wall and a possible sinkhole at the Jacobs Creek waterfall behind the camp office Friday morning.

Mt. Pleasant Township Supervisor Frank Puskar, who went out on flooding calls with township crews all morning, called the storm just the latest in “an awful, wet, cool summer.”

“We've been inundated with bad rains and high water all summer, and the ground is saturated,” he said. “I sure hope this wet weather is not an indicator of what kind of winter we're going to have.”

McMullen said the area should get a break from the rain over the weekend.

“We'll have no rain until probably Monday night or Tuesday,” McMullen said.

Mark Hofmann is a staff writer with Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-626-3539 or Paul Paterra and A.J. Panian contributed.

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